Sunday, December 6, 2009

End of Season Traditions

Now that winter is looming over our heads here in Michigan, I've gone through my first end of the golfing season depression. I wasn't really into golf in my teenage years, going out only once or twice a year with my dad, uncle, and grandpa. I would shoot pretty poorly but I had an occasional good shot or two that made me say I'd always keep going.

Well, this year I began playing on a regular basis. Every opportunity I could, I would go play. And at first, I was bad. I was quite bad actually. My first round of the season was with a friend of mine from junior high and high school named Mike. Mike and I played a course called the Myth, which isn't the best course for a beginning golfer. There are woods everywhere on this course and several forced carries that really lost me a lot of balls. I shot a 124.

But, I became hooked after that round and I played a lot this year. I dropped my average into the 90s, usually around a 94-96, and finished my last round of the year with an outstanding 84.

When it was all said and done, I took my bag from my trunk and set it in the living room. Now what? Here's where my first end of the year traditions took place. I emptied out everything from the bag. Golf balls all went into a tub so that I could clean them and re-mark them before spring (I have yet to finish this, but I've done about half of the balls). My glove, ball mark, golf GPS, all that good stuff, was deemed okay to go back in the bag. My clubs, were all removed and cleaned so carefully and meticulously my girlfriend was so mad when she saw all the grass and dirt powdering the kitchen sink.

But I was just so at peace when I was doing it that I really didn't mind cleaning everything up after. I soaked the clubs in some warm, soapy water for about five minutes, took an old tooth brush that I had saved just for this occasion, and a tack and I cleaned up the faces and backs and every individual groove on every club. When I had finished cleaning and drying off all of them, I put them back in the bag and put it back in the closet, feeling a sense of accomplishment and pride. But also, of course, a sense of sadness knowing that I wouldn't get to use my new friends for quite some time.

So, does anyone else have any good golf traditions for the end of season?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Video Links

Here's my interview with Pat Caputo-professor at Oakland University for the sports journalism course, and columnist at the Oakland Press. We talk about investigative reporting in sports journalism, including common cases and pertenent information for reporters.

I had to split it into two parts, but it's finally done!


Here is another part of the final multimedia project for my last journalism class. This is a slideshow that I made compiling quotes from movie reviewers about the state of journalism that "State of Play" showed.

I used Slideshare for the first time so this was a bit of a new venture but I think it turned out well. Apparently I was supposed to export the slideshow as a movie, or make it in iMovie instead but I think this will work out just fine.

Investigative Reporting

Here is a short essay I wrote for my final multimedia package for my last journalism class at Oakland University. It is about investigative reporting and is inspired by the movie "State of Play."

Investigative reporting is a very unique and profound area of journalism that only breaks into the forefront of the news occasionally. While there are always crimes and murders and scandals to cover, the ones that make the front page and grab your attention are few and far between the gang slayings or romantic affairs of politicians.

In the movie “State of Play”, a seasoned, veteran reporter and a young, up-and-coming reporter team up to try and solve a murder. A lead investigator in a case headed by a politician is killed at a subway station. The politician is, of course, in love with the young, attractive investigator and his wife is exposed to this amidst the murder. Now, instead of helping her husband figure out where to take his case against the corporate giants, she has to deal with his infidelity. The reporters weave through obstacles, gather facts, conduct interviews, stretch the truth in order to prove their stories, and in the end, nab the bad guy.

Stories like this are few and far between outside of the silver screen though. When was the last time a politician had an affair? In the last month you can find at least a few cases that have been reported nationally. When was the last time someone was killed? Every few seconds reading this article someone, somewhere, is killed. When was the last time corporations were deceitful and harmed others for their own gains? I’m not sure we even need to answer this but the recession we’re in traces back to Wall Street and the corporate giants.

Good investigative reporting really becomes lost in the shuffle of the daily work that journalists all over the world do. Rarely are we grabbed by a story that is so juicy, so compelling, so moving, that literally everyone you know has heard about. But with all the wrongdoing in the world surely this is a mistake. We should be able to pull compelling stories off the front pages of every newspaper in town. Why don’t we?

There are many issues that go into a truly riveting story that must be ironed out before it reaches print. If the time and effort that goes into the best investigative reporting was forced or skimmed over, we wouldn’t be enticed to read or watch the story. First, reporters have to learn something of interest. Something unique, something that seems out of place, something that very few other people know.

Next, the reporter must decide what to do with it. Who else knows about this? Will they talk about it? What would happen to them if they were discovered talking about it? Who would get hurt by talking about it? All these questions and more go into the very beginnings of a good report.

If the story is worth moving forward, the reporter must elaborate. The facts have to be concrete, they have to be profound, and they have to be true. While the last part may seem obvious, it can sometimes be the toughest part of the whole process. If no one can validate your story, or no one can prove something happened, then why are we writing about it? Reporters can spend days, months, or even years working on a story. While many news organizations won’t allow a year-long story, if they can prove the value the story will have, they may be able to work on it for months at a time.

Once they have the sources, the facts, everything in place, then they can begin writing. The writing is the easiest part by now because they’re so surrounded by the plot. They know the details and the key players; the reporter can write this story sleeping. And that is truly the best element of it. After the work is done and the angles are set and it comes time to show the public the truth, the words pour in buckets and everything falls into place.

Anytime you can put Russel Crowe as a reporter in a scandal you’re surely going to have a good story. I can’t imagine this movie with Brad Pitt cast as the lead actor like the movie had originally started with. When Pitt backed out and Crowe stepped in, it did this movie a huge service. Rachel McAdams could have been nearly anyone but she plays the part well. The movie strikes a cord with older reporters in the opening and closing scenes, and new journalists get to see the old and new brands of reporting meshing and working together. It is a stark yet hopeful contrast for the future of investigative journalism and journalism as a whole.

In our time and era of news reporting, the work Crowe did in this movie goes unnoticed and grossly overlooked by moviegoers. Something of this magnitude, should it ever happen, would surely garner awards and recognition for years to come. And I think that one day when the stories have been told, we’ll look back on them and wonder how many more could’ve been unlocked if only that little extra effort and dedication were there. One more detail, one more source, one more interview, one more piece of the puzzle; how many missed opportunities will we pass up in our lives?

Oh Tiger

It only seems fitting to discuss what everyone and their mother is discussing right now: Tiger. But what to say that hasn't already been said is another thing entirely.

His apology seems unusual, the reactions from professionals and friends are mixed (I heard reports of the golfer who introduced Tiger to Elin say he wishes she used a driver instead of 3-iron, implying he thinks she beat him with a golf club on Friday morning). I've heard reports about multiple women coming forward saying they've had affairs with him. Where are all these women coming from and why? You aren't going to get famous off of this--there's too many of you now! The first one, maybe two, sure, they'll have their fifteen minutes. Any other woman claiming to have had sex with Tiger Woods is only fooling themselves thinking anything good is coming. Where will the rumors end?

What I'd really like to hear is never going to be said, but I'd like to know why. Why would Tiger cheat on a beautiful blonde woman with some skanky bar and night club brunettes. No, not all women who work in bars or night clubs are skanky. But the ones that sleep with celebrities and tell about it for fame and money certainly are. The first girl denying the allegations (and now potentially coming forward about them, press conference today with her lawyer will make a statement), and then this other girl selling text messages and a voicemail from Tiger for $150,000. Why Tiger? Why? Your wife is hot!

The more this stories unfolds the worse it will be for Tiger, Elin, and golf. The golden child, he who does no wrong and has brought golf back into the mainstream of sports media, just may have cost himself the whole show. Sure, he'll be a great golfer still. And whether Elin stays with him or doesn't, things will never be the same for TW again.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Ford Field

Yesterday, for my internship with, I went to Ford Field for the high school football state championships. What an experience.

I didn't attend Friday's games (the even divisions) because of work, but I was there all day on Saturday. I got up around 9:30 and left the house just before 11 am. I got there around quarter to noon, over an hour until the Division One Finals bewteen Detroit Catholic Central and Sterling Heights Stevenson.

Being from Sterling Heights but moving to Clarkston, I was torn in this game. While I thought Clarkston got the shaft on a couple of calls in the semifinals against Stevenson, I was rooting for the Titans. Detroit CC beat them pretty handily though with stingy defense and a good run game. I think Clarkston would've fared better with a more two-dimensional offense (SHS had both of its runningbacks injured so they passed the ball about 90% of the time). I went down the field for the post game interviews and wandered with the maze of hallways beneath Ford Field.

The second game was a big blowout between Jackson Lumen Christi over Clare, with a 35-7 halftime score and a 42-7 final. The second half was pretty lackluster with an explosive first half led by their quarterback Conor Sullivan. The guy did everything for that team after the opening kick off return by Rafe Bellers. He got two rushing touchdowns, two passing touchdowns and one touchdown reception. It's believed he's the first to have done that.

The final game was an awesome way to end the tournament. A rematch between Orchard Lake St. Mary's and East Grand Rapids was a close and heartfelt match. The emotion in this game really shown through on every play. In contrast with the previous game, the first half was pretty calm. Save the last 15 seconds. Penn State-bound St. Mary's quarterback Robert Bolden gave that team a chance--and in all honesty is the only reason that team is in the playoff finals and possibly even the playoffs at all. He nailed a 28-yard pass to stop the clock with 8 seconds left on the 1-yard line. Whether it was his call or the coach's call, St. Mary's went for the 1-yard drive two times in a row and were stopped up both times. A field goal here is a safe call and probably one that Coach Porritt would make in hindsight. The second half changed leads back and forth until the 1:14 mark of the game. East Grand Rapids put the ball in the end zone off a 14-yard pass. Bolden made two great passes for 1st downs and stopped the clock each time moving the ball close to midfield. Then a mistake that will probably haunt him for a long time but you can't really fault the guy for everything he's done for the team to this point: he fumbled the ball and Grand Rapids recovered it at their own 44-yard line. The clock would run out and East Grand Rapids won for their fourth straight year.

What was more memorable though for me was being up in that press box. First, it was an extremely nice media area compared to the cramped and crowded press boxes at the actual high schools that I've been accustomed to all season long. But mostly, I liked the recognition that I got. Professional, working jouralists that I've been alongside all season long know me. They know me, talk to me, hopefully root for me a little bit. In no particular order, Keith Dunlop, Pat Caputo, Perry Farrell, Tom Markoswski, Mick McCabe and probably a host of others I'm forgetting all have helped me out in some way. Even without them knowing, I've learned more this semester than I have all four years of education. This truly was the best way to end a great internship and a great college career.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Feet of Putts Holed

This is an interesting statistic that I read about in the December issue of Golf Digest Peter Sanders, Golf Digest Professional Advisor, wrote an article that used data from about 90,000 amateur rounds of golf to develop a more complex and complete picture about your putting.

The basics of the piece are that when we count all putts equally, we're not really getting an accurate idea of what's going on. You can miss greens all day, but chip to within 3 feet every time, 1 putt and be sitting on 18 putts for a round of golf. You can also hit greens all day, but be 30 feet away and end up with easily 56 or more putts. Simply writing down a 1 or 2 (or 3 for those tricky greens that seem to taunt our scorecards) doesn't cut it. Sanders uses this example: Two-putting from two feet is not the same as two-putting from 50 feet, but they're counted the same using the traditional method.

With Sanders' method, you only count the feet of the putt you made. Say you sink a 10 footer, write down a 10. There are two stipulations to this method to help balance out the numbers. The first is that any putt over 15 feet is recorded as 15 feet to make sure one long putt doesn't throw off a whole round. The second rule is that any putt within 2 feet is considered 2 feet to treat your long lag putts more fairly.
So far my closing round yesterday of 84, I can count up my putts and see that I took 17 putts on the front 9, 20 putts on the back 9, and 37 putts total. But to look at things from Sanders' method, I have this chart.

The quality of the image isn't very good but I'm still working with blogger so I'll try to edit it more clearly later. But at any rate, you can see a very different story from my number of 37.

I had quite a few 2's marked on there, indicating that I made quite a few putts from 2 feet and in. This could mean that I'm lagging well from far away, which was the case most of my round, or that I'm missing makable putts--which also happened on a couple occasions. You can see four three putts as well.

To calculate your peformance, add up all the numbers, multiply your three putts by four (so for me, four times four is 16), and subtract that number from the total. So in total, I had 78, and minus the 16 feet from the three putts, I ended my round with a 62. In the article there's a chart to see how your putting stacks up against an average of players and their handicaps. My putting for this round was the equivalent of a 5-handicap. Impressive. (Scratch is 70' and a 25-handicap hits 40 feet). A golf forum here has a user that posted about the article and other golfer's thoughts about it. Some think it's a good stat, and many even keep it already (perhaps without the formula and data to back up the formula but the stat is not new to most of these golfers). Some think it's rubbish.

TEConnor posts saying that other useful stats to keep track of might be: percent of putts made from 5-10 feet, putts per green in regulation, and three putts per round. I agree with the first, but am not sure what difference it makes whether you've made the green in regulation or not. Two putts are two putts regardless of whether it took you one shot to make it to the green or seven. If it's a pressure thing, you could argue that there is pressure to hit every shot. I will definitely consider marking the percent of putts from inside 10 feet (5-10 is a randon number, as 2 feet on a sidehill lie is trickier than 5 feet straight and uphill).